Three years ago, a teacher from Oneka Elementary, Mrs. Garman, passed away from pancreatic cancer. Ever since then, the students (with a little help from the staff) have organized a Cancer Walk. Here’s how it works: one day in the last week of school, the entire school walks around the grounds of the school. For 2 weeks leading up to the event, they collect money for the American Cancer Society (ACS).
Because an old neighbor who we were very close with, and my husband’s grandma have both been diagnosed with cancer in the last couple years, because her great-grandpa passed away from cancer a few years ago, and because I am walking for the 2nd time in the Susan G Komen 3 Day for the Cure, my daughter wanted to be on the planning committee for the school’s event.
The committee met several times to brainstorm ways to raise money. I suggested to my daughter that they do a penny drive of some sort. A high school senior I know who helped raise money for the Relay for Life, said that it was one way they raised a large amount of their money. I also remembered the sock I used to use to collect money for the ACS that said “Sock it to Cancer” back when I sold Partylite. The committee loved the idea! I bought enough socks for each classroom at her school, and wrote “Sock it to Cancer” on them with puff paint. In just 2 days, they raised about $300 – just collecting change in the socks!
The committee also came up with the idea of making “cancer ribbon” pins that they sold for $1/piece. They had different colors to represent different kinds of cancer. The ribbon and pins used to make them was donated by Michael’s. I helped sell them the morning of the cancer walk. I couldn’t believe the number of students lined up to buy these pins. It was almost sad, some of the stories these kids told me about who in their families was affected with what kind of cancer. One boy said both his dad and his uncle fought cancer. He didn’t know what kind, but his uncle could no longer walk because of it. I heard kids talk about their close family members, including parents that had brain cancer, skin cancer, tongue cancer, “patriotic cancer” (pancreatic), lots of lung cancer, breast cancer, and kidney cancer,… it was moving to say the least.
The group also sold plain paper bracelets (like you get if you go to a water park). They provided permanent markers so that students could write cancer-related messages and messages to the people they were walking for.
The entire school was generous and supportive of this event. The entire school came together to raise money and fight cancer.
At 2:00, the afternoon of the last day (which happened to be the anniversary of her death, the entire school walked the course. The 5th graders were in orange and started first. The 4th graders were in green, and started 5 minutes later. The 3rd graders were in blue, and started 5 minutes after that. Last to start, was the 2nd graders, wearing yellow. The committee continued to sell ribbons, bracelets, and bottles of water throughout the walk (donated by Cub Foods).
I had volunteered to help, and the Principal, Mrs. Dahlem, had asked me to stand at the halfway point. She wanted me to help make sure students were staying on track, to have an adult presence there, and mostly, just to cheer them on. It was great! I was reminded of the people who line the roads during The 3 Day, cheering on the walkers. I remember how encouraging it was. I tried to emulate that for the students, teachers, and even a few parents who joined in the walk. I stood there cheering, high fiving, letting them know they were halfway done with their lap, etc. I also monitored their “breaks”, as I was in a pavilion, which was a natural rest area. I told them they could rest 2 minutes, and then encouraged them to keep going. No one really gave me any trouble. I was impressed at the drive these kids had to keep walking for a very good cause. Very few complained, despite the 80+ degree temps. Most of the kids did 3-4 laps, although I’m pretty sure the first group of 5th grade boys that I saw, went 5 laps.
At 2:45 or so (once the caboose made it to the gathering area), they had an outdoor assembly. There is a large boulder with a plaque honoring their teacher who lost her short battle with cancer. There is also a tree that was planted in her memory. Mrs. Dahlem introduced the committee who all gave their reasons for wanting to help organize the event. A few students had Mrs. Garmin as a teacher, some knew her, some had family members who were affected by cancer.
During the assembly, Mrs. Dahlem told the students that in 2 days, they had raised over $900 for the American Cancer Society!!! That’s impressive! She also encouraged the upcoming grades to continue the tradition, and see if they can break the record that was set by this year’s 5th grade class.
It was awesome to see an entire school come together this way. I think more schools should find a cause to come together for.